Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Days before DDA

With just two days left of stage carriage work for the majority of elderly single deck vehicles before the much dreaded DDA comes in on the 1st January 2016, I thought it would fit to write a post about what I've seen in the lead up to Christmas that may not see 2016.

Whilst the DDA law double deckers doesn't come in until this time next year, operators are sadly replacing the step entrance examples at an alarming rate.

First Kernow 42471 T471JCV at Newquay
A recent visit to Cornwall on Friday 18th December saw a surprising amount of non-DDA vehicles on the road. Single-deck wise, these included First Kernow Dennis Dart SLFs 42801 Y1EDN, 42471 T471JCV, 42521 R421WPX and Optare Solos 50284 W215DWX & 53012 W812PAF as well as Travel Cornwall UK Mercedes Vario RIL5199 on a Truro College working,

Whilst I've never been fussed over Dart SLFs, I decided to ride aboard Dart/ALX200 42471 on the lengthy 87 route which connects Newquay to Truro via Perranporth. I guess I'll have to admit to missing the Torbay ones a bit, in comparison to the crap that has replaced them in recent times. I later caught up with my Cornish 'Stalker' Dart, 42521 R421WPX on route 21 which I rode from Quintrell Downs to St Austell.

43810 KU52RXJ at Truro Bus Station
As I've previously mentioned, the majority of the newer low floor vehicles from Plymouth depot were transferred to Cornwall to replace Olympians and non-DDA Darts in the fleet. However, I noticed on that visit that the non-DDA Darts replacements are infact, Non-DDA! Former Torpoint Transbus Mini Pointer Dart 43810 KU52RXJ has been treated to a repaint into 'Olympia' livery and looks rather smart, however she lacks a side destination blind meaning it cannot be used after the 31st. Some of the former Truronian Optare Solos are similar, 53404 TT54TVL has been repainted into a rather smart semi-Barbie like livery, however lacks the side blind, as does 53205 HIG8434 which was the former Dartmouth Park & Ride vehicle.

Although many replacements have arrived in the form of 2002 (and one 2005) Ceatano Slimbus bodied Transbus Dart SLFs from Hereford, Essex and Great Yarmouth, it will be interesting to see if buses such as 2005 Solo 53205 and 2002 Dart 43810 are fitted with necessary equipment to comply with DDA, or if they'll be disposed of in the new year.
42863 EG52FFK in Norwich - thanks to Cameron Robinson

661-4 R904BOU at Cribbs Causeway
A visit to Bristol on the 22nd December was a real shocker, at least three non-DDA Volvo B10BLEs out and about in the First fleet! I was delighted to be able to have a couple of 'last rides' on them, those were 66104 R904BOU and 66162 S362XCR, both of which were excellent machines with years of life left in them.  I had 66104 on route 78 from Bristol to Cribbs Causeway (although it continues to Thornbury), it had lovely Dual purpose seats in the latest First moquette as well as a powerful and sweet sounding Volvo D10A pounding away underneath. 66162 was had on a round trip to Nailsea and back to Bristol Bus Station on route X8, and provided a smooth and fast ride on a route that gives the B10s a decent run!

With only around 8 B10BLEs in line to survive DDA in Firsts South Yorkshire fleet, and a small number in Somerset, they are certainly becoming a rare breed and will be missed!

Y243DRC at Nailsea
Another surprise on that Bristol trip was Abus', former Trent Barton, Optare Excel Y243DRC. I'm unsure to whether it is DDA compliant or not, however it was only my second Excel for haulage in my life and a decent ride back into Bristol from Nailsea on route X9!

The much loved Volvo B10M will be another type thats up for the chop among fleets, including Stagecoach, where in various parts of the country there is still a minority out in service! Whilst the farewell event in Manchester back in November largely marked the end of the type, some depots in Scotland and the South ran some for schools until now.

Two Varios at Summercourt depot
One operator that was very intriguing was Western Greyhound with their large quantity of Mercedes Varios, only two of which out of the 30 they had when they ceased trading were DDA compliant. They had already made significant progress in replacing these, as they once had 55+ examples of the type, some of which were up to four years younger than their DDA replacements!

Brijan Tours also kept their step entrance Dennis Darts in service surprisingly late before their demise, however I found out the other day that N5BJT that has passed to XelaBus was still being used, and had a final swansong just the other day!
N5BJT at Hedge End Superstores

Sadly, whilst DDA has a lot of supporters, in my opinion it is awful. Small independent operators are having to invest money they can't afford into buying vehicles that are compliant, which are often in worse condition than the older vehicles they are replacing. It's a real shame to see perfectly good buses, like Volvo B10BLEs pensioned off with so many years left in them.

I would like to wish all my blog readers a very Happy new year for 2016!

Friday, 18 December 2015

December's delights!

Once again, due to life getting in the way, it's been over a month since my last post so apologies for that.

This post will be a general round up of the happenings on the transport front recently, so here goes:

Stagecoach Manchester Volvo B10M farewell 
Saturday 14th November saw me take, what will likely be, my final big trip for the year - this time to Manchester where a group of staff at Stagecoach had organised a send off for the popular Volvo B10Ms which have served, not just Manchester, but the whole country tirelessly since the early 1990's. Sadly, DDA regulations coming in on the 1st January 2016 will see all B10Ms on stage carriage work wiped out. 

After a pleasant trip up to London on the Night Riviera Sleeper service, hauled by Great Western Railways native 57604 'Pendennis Castle', I caught an early morning Virgin West Coast service from Euston to Manchester Piccadilly. Arriving at just before 9am, I jumped aboard one of Firsts Optare Versa EVs on the free Metroshuttle to Piccadilly Gardens, and just in the nick of time made it for the first Volvo B10M operated 192 service. Dayrider tickets were sold at usual price, however those issued aboard the B10Ms, the proceeds would go to Stagecoach's charity partner, Genesis. 

My first 'bash' of the day was Stagecoach Manchesters 20982, R982XVM - with a Voith gearbox to Hazel Grove. Here I found a gorgeous line up of various Volvo B10Ms including preserved ex-Stagecoach 20896 R896XVM, ex-Mainline N767CKY and a pair of driver trainers from Stagecoach Manchester. 

The new and the old at Hazel Grove
In an attempt to grab a second photo of 20982, and catch 20983 we boarded the 'standard' traction on the 192 - an Alexander Dennis Enviro400H. Unfortunately, my lack of local route knowledge came into play, and on the return I boarded a Stepping Hill bound 192 (the short working), as opposed to a Hazel Grove one, meaning I eventually went back on myself. Annoying - but never mind, it's all part of the fun haha!

After spotting a PS in the distance, we hastily got off of (what was by now the third) Enviro400, and dashed over the road and stepped aboard native 20983 R983XVM and rode to the City Centre. 983 was slightly louder and more beastly than 982 - so that was a winner.

17631 W631RND at Palatine Road, Didsbury
Those who know me won't be at all surprised that my other aim for the trip was to get some more haulage in on the euro 2 engined Dennis Tridents that can be found on route 168/169 and are slowly being phased off of Magic Bus work. Thankfully, there were at least nine examples out on the 142 and 143, working alongside the recently repainted Enviro400s and euro 5 retrofitted X-NNO Tridents. Our first 'Magic Bash' of the day was native, and un-silenced (yay!) Dennis Trident 17631 W631RND to Palatine Road. A destination I couldn't help but pick up on - great place for the mileage log! 

We returned to town on 17661 V161DFT before splashing through the City Centre to the Arndale in the P***ing rain in order to obtain some lunch. After a bash on 17667, 17632 and 17660 it was time to return to the Volvo B10Ms!  Our next ride was one of the 'guests': ZF gearbox 20457 M457VCW which had come down for the event from Stagecoach Cumbria, and provided a very quick ride, with the added luxury of DP seats back to Hazel Grove on the 192. By far and away the best bus of the day!  
20457 M457VCW in Piccadilly Gardens

Our final B10M was 20792 R794URM which was another guest - this time from Lancashire. 794 is equipped with a very sweet sounding Voith box, however she was pulled out of service at Stockport Road due to the demisters not playing ball, and it wasn't the nicest of weather to be driving in!

After a brief trip back into the City Centre on former Stagecoach Yorkshire 12089, YN61BFL, (complete with Sheffield branding), we rode a couple more MagicBus Tridents before making a run back to Piccadilly for the last train Southbound, ending another fantastic day! 

The total B10Ms at the event were as follows:

Stagecoach Lancashire, Alexander PS bodied 20794 R794URM

Stagecoach Manchester (training), Northern Counties Paladin bodied 20653 R653HCD

Stagecoach Manchester (training), Alexander PS bodied 20971 R971XVM

Preserved, former SC Manchester, Alexander PS bodied 20896 R896XVM

Preserved, former First South Yorkshire Mainline, Alexander PS bodied 767 N767CKY.

Stagecoach Manchester, Alexander PS bodied 20982 R982XVM

Stagecoach Manchester, Alexander PS bodied 20983 R983XVM

Stagecoach Cumbria, Alexander PS bodied 20711 K711DAO

Stagecoach Cumbria, Alexander PS bodied 20457 M457VCW

Classic Bus North West, Alexander PS bodied R898XVM - former Stagecoach 20898

Preserved, former Stagecoach, Alexander PS bodied P131XCN
The line up at Hazel Grove Park & Ride

                The decline of the Torbay Tridents
Well, after a bloody good sleep the following day, that week was then spent chasing Torbay's last three Dennis Tridents; 17003, 17057 and 17058 as well as ZF Transbus example, 17702. These would be replaced the following Monday by former Exmouth Scania Enviro400s 15660-9.

17057 on School route 27
Sadly, after several unsuccessful attempts early in the week at getting a photo, 17058 T658KPU was taken off the road for it's M.O.T and then sent to Plymouth, so it was just 17003, 17057 and 17702 to get.

I managed to catch 17057 T657KPU on Upper Headland Park Road on Thursday 19th November, whilst it was working Torquay school route, 27. This provided a slightly unusual photo. I then headed for Torquay where I scored a trip up to St Marychurch and back on 17003 S803BWC, and then another, though on 17702 ML02RWU which was driven by a fantastic driver, I also had a chance to photograph it in St Marychurch. 
17057 in Torquay Fleet Street

Friday 20th November saw me catch a photo of 17003 on Fleet Street, Torquay working it's usual 22 route, followed by 17057 T657KPU twenty minutes behind. It turned out to be my last chance to catch 17057 in Torbay, since she appeared at Plymouth early the following week. 

Of course, the 2004 Tridents were also due to leave, however I was less fussed about those. I spotted 18071/2/3 WA04CSU/V/X working out of Exeter last week.

...and their replacements
Stagecoach certainly didn't hang about after the Gold spec Scanias began to arrive at Exmouth, with the first '10 reg being delivered to Paignton Bus Station at around 04:55 on the morning of Sunday 22nd November. This was the first of the batch, 15660 WA10GHO. 

15660 WA10GHO at Dawlish Warren
During a brief visit to the Bus Station at the more sensible hour, I was advised 15660 would be in service later in the morning, which gave me time to grab some breakfast at McDonalds and dash home to get my initial shots online.  I then headed back out, and boarded 15660 at my local stop on the it's first ever trip on the 22 route and rode to Torquay. Since it was a Sunday, the bus then worked an 11 to Dawlish Warren, so I stayed on. Not a bad vehicle at all; sounded fairly nice and coped well on the difficult gradients of the 11. 

The 10 strong batch slowly entered service in Torbay that week, except 15667 which was sent to Scanias for almost 3 weeks for maintained, and then 15668 & 15669 which joined Torquay within the last week. 15667 returned Monday.

So, what about the new Gold vehicles?
Monday 23rd November saw the upgrade of  Exeter-Exmouth-Brixington route 57 to Stagecoach Gold. The vehicles on order were a batch of 11 Scania N230UD/Alexander Dennis Enviro400s, numbered 15250-15260. The intention was for 15250 to be delivered to Torquay, however this hasn't happened yet.

15255 YN65XDU at Topsham
The first day of the upgrade wasn't quite as great as hoped; with only three Gold deckers out along with some of the 2010 Scanias, and even two Enviro200s! Of course, there is two trips actually advertised as being 'non-Gold', these being worked by Tridents 17707 or 17708.

In addition to being late in production, I'm told that some of the new Scanias arrived defective hence the slow start of them. The latest batch are equipped with USB chargers, one of which unfortunately damaged my friends Apple iPhone phone charger - needless to say I was less than willing to try the sockets out myself!

Interior of 15260 YN65XDM
I took a ride aboard 15255 YN65XDU as far as Topsham last Saturday, and found it to be a pleasant ride. It sounded nice, and pulled fairly well - quite impressive for such a new vehicle. On my return, I had 15260 YN65XDM which, again, was nice but 260 also had been given an additional little touch, this being a large print photograph of the Exmouth coast stuck over the large plastic panel that covers the large Scania cooling pack. In my opinion, it is a lovely touch and takes away the boringness of a large cream panel. The KX08 registered Scanias, transferred from Oxford, also have this - although the photograph is of Oxfordshire! 

Some rarities! 
Tuesday 24th November saw a welcome, and unusual visitor to Torbay. Direct Rail Services 37603 worked a test train to Goodrington Sidings as part of it's rounds of the South West.
DRS 37603 rests at Paignton

A rare sight: 17003 at Torquay Strand working route 12!
Back to the buses, the next day saw 'the beast', 17003 S803BWC make a very rare appearance on Torbay's key route - HOP12. Not only did it work during the day, but also stayed on til end of the shift. Of course, I chased 17003 to Newton Abbot, and then Torquay for a photo before jumping aboard for a ride to Brixham and back. A lovely surprise to end the night indeed!

Plymothian Pandemonium 
Finally, a few updates as to whats happening in Plymouth.

Transbus ALX400 Tridents 18068/9/70 WA04CRX/Z/SF have been transferred from Torquay, along with older Dennis examples 17057/8 T657/8KPU. 

A selection of the V.O.R deckers seen at The Ride
These have seemingly replaced the ex-Fife full height Tridents which were seen lined up at The Ride, all VOR on Sunday 6th December. The vehicles in order were 17290 X290NNO, 17670 V170DFT (from Manchester - low height) , 17297 X297NNO, 17295 X295NNO , 17289 X289NNO , 17337 X337NNO, 17294 X294NNO, 17299 X299NNO. Sadly, I haven't manage to ride 17289, 17294, 17295 and 17670 yet and it's unlikely I ever will get that chance. Whilst not being a bad batch of buses to the enthusiast, they are considered rather unfit for service due to lacking seats downstairs and not having any proper wheelchair space. 

First Bus owned loanees 18531-5 and Volvo B7Ls 21096-9 are still going, though their days are now numbered before they return to First Bus, presumably Kernow to finish off the Olympians.
Stagecoach Darts, and loaned B7Ls at The Ride

I was delighted to have a ride to Tavistock and back on 17002 S802BWC last Sunday, although I maybe should have been doing my Christmas shopping...oh well! 

17002 S802BWC in Tavistock
I plan to write another post next week, though just in case I don't get round to it I would like to wish all of my blog readers, Flickr viewers and Youtube viewers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Over and out!